Do you skip breakfast?
You might think skipping breakfast is the perfect way to start the day. After all, if you are trying to cut calories, then isn’t breakfast the easiest meal to cut down on calories?
In actual fact, skipping breakfast could be one of the most detrimental things you can do to help you lose weight and keep it off. Studies in the US have proven that when you skip breakfast, your rate of burning calories (your metabolism) slows right down.
You see, when we rest for many hours at night, the body naturally lowers its metabolism. The body then needs ‘food’ to kick-start its engine again to help you burn calories. As I mentioned in last week’s post, How to Overcome a Weight Loss Plateau – “you need food to lose weight”. What counts is ‘when’ you to eat this food! One of the best times for this food is in the morning when the body is at is most responsive to taking on fuel to kick-start your ‘fat burning motor’ into action!
Another problem with skipping breakfast is you are more likely to overeat during the day in compensation for your low blood sugar levels early on. When you feel this hungry, you’ll be forced to eat or you’ll eventually feel faint and weak, with an associated dip in mood – commonly during mid morning. When you crave food in this manner, research shows you are more likely to choose sugary, fatty foods to quickly reverse your energy dip and low mood. Although the energy dip is short lived due to you ‘eating sugar’, the extra sugar that can’t be used by your cells for energy, quickly gets converted and stored as fat. Calories pile on!
On the contrary, you may have read that skipping breakfast and exercising on an empty stomach is a good way to increase fat burning. Although this may be the case in the short term, the research doesn’t show the ‘whole picture’ of the long term effect.
The problems associated with cycle training on an empty stomach far outweigh its benefit. For a start, you are beginning a ride on near glycogen muscle depletion. Not long into the ride and you’ll be slowing down uncomfortably due to low energy supply to those muscles. Continue cycling on depleted muscles and you risk ‘hitting the wall’ and running completely out of energy. Your training will basically become ineffective and you’ll have wasted your time – even if you are burning fat at this point.
Another problem associated with training on an empty stomach and skipping breakfast, is it can damage muscles. In other words, energy stores which are depleted can result in cells and muscle tissue being damaged and the immune system being stressed if cycling continues. Recovery then becomes longer due to the repairing of damaged muscle.
In addition to the above, ‘training on empty’ sets yourself up to fight your body’s cravings during the day. As we mentioned above, because you’ve exercised when already low on glycogen, your body is put into almost ‘starvation mode’ after a ride and will do everything it can to compensate – screaming out for food. The question is, do you really want to put your body through this stress?
The best thing you can do from today is eat a good wholesome breakfast to start your day. You are looking for foods that will both fuel your body, nourish it properly, AND sustain your energies for your cycling. The best fuel is ‘slow release’ sugars in the form of complex carbohydrates and some protein. These foods will sustain your energy levels longest. If you feel a small dip mid morning, simply reach for an apple. The fiber in an apple should fill you up long enough to get to lunch. Apples are also low in calories and highly nutritious.
Before morning workouts, fuel your body by eating a breakfast comprising mostly low- to moderate-glycemic carbohydrates an hour or so before cycling. A good example is to eat porridge oats, or oatmeal. A good breakfast should also contain some protein, which in turn decreases the body’s reliance on muscle protein as an energy source, sparing the muscle to focus on the workout. Simply add a scoop of whey protein powder to your porridge.
If you don’t have whey protein, then eat eggs. Eggs are an excellent source of protein and can easily compliment a bowl of porridge. Remember to hydrate well too as the body is usually dehydrated from the night before.
On days you are not working out, remember to still eat your breakfast to kick start your metabolism to burn fat. The body needs food for recovery and to stock up energy for the next workout, so eat wholesomely. If you don’t feel like porridge, then eat a low fat yoghurt with some fruit, or non-sweetened muesli with low fat greek yoghurt makes an excellent alternative. Again, remember to hydrate well, as much daily tiredness can be due to dehydration.
In summary, remember there is an easier way to lose body fat with longer lasting results: just eat your breakfast! Get your body to work for you, not against you. Eat wholesomely in the mornings to kick off the day with full energy, to counter cravings and set you up for long lasting, permanent weight loss.